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Meadows Music Alumna Michelle Merrill Named Assistant Conductor of Detroit Symphony

Conducting ensembles and the Meadows Symphony while at SMU provided valuable experience

Michelle Merrill (B.M. in Music Education and B.M. in Saxophone Performance, ’06, and M.M. in Music Education and M.M. in Orchestral Conducting, ’12), has been named assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra following a nationwide search. She will also conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Family Concerts, Education Concert Series programs and occasional Pops series programs, as well as community outreach and donor event concerts.

Merrill most recently served as a guest conductor at the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for three seasons and as assistant conductor of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship by the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation, which enabled her to be in residence at the world-renowned Salzburg Festival. In September 2014 she also made her debut with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.

Meadows Impact

Merrill speaks highly of her years at Meadows. “Meadows gave me the opportunity to hone my craft,” she says. “Professor of Music and Director of Bands Jack Delaney took me on as an undergraduate conducting student and I had the opportunity to conduct the Meadows Wind Ensemble. I also conducted student recitals and various chamber ensembles throughout my time there.”

As a grad student she served as assistant conductor of the Meadows Symphony Orchestra under Paul Phillips, professor of music, Martha Raley Peak Endowed Centennial Chair and director of orchestral activities. “I could never accurately or completely express the impact that Paul Phillips had, and continues to have, on my development as a musician and conductor,” says Merrill. “It is obvious to anyone who has ever been to one of his concerts that he is an incredible musician. Anyone who has ever had the privilege of studying with him will also tell you that he is a fantastic teacher, both on the podium and off.”

Merrill appreciates Meadows’ connected music community and says the school is rich with some of the highest-level music-making in the country.

“For example, listening to Greg Hustis (adjunct professor of horn) or Will Roberts (adjunct professor of bassoon) in the Dallas Symphony set the tone in my ear for what a horn and a bassoon were supposed to sound like at the epitome of perfection,” she says. “I was inspired.”

Merrill Accomplishments

A strong advocate of new music, Merrill also worked with Voices of Change, a professional contemporary music ensemble in Dallas, in their 2011-12 season, during which time the ensemble was named as having one of the Dallas Morning News’ top 10 performances of 2011. Merrill was one of the four winners of the 2012 International Conductors Workshop and Competition, and in the summer of 2011 she was invited to conduct on a concert program with the Rochester Philharmonic featuring young talent. She has also conducted numerous other professional orchestras through various workshops and has worked with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Gustav Meier, JoAnn Falletta and Neil Varon, among others.

Vision for Detroit Symphony

Merrill says she is beyond thrilled to join the Detroit Symphony family. “Having the opportunity to work with the extraordinary musicians of the orchestra and world-renowned Music Director Leonard Slatkin is a dream come true,” says Merrill. “I cannot wait to be a part of making the Detroit Symphony the most accessible orchestra on the planet, as well as an orchestra committed to bringing culture, art, and creativity to the citizens of metro Detroit and beyond.”

Read more about Michelle Merrill, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Division of Music at Meadows School of the Arts.

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